Wanna Chat?

May 13, 2013

I love social media. Being a person who sees connectivity in everything, social media is like a superweb of being connected, with thin, but strong strands stretching from me to an infinite number of endpoints. A lot of people complain about its superficiality, but I don’t see it that way. I really do love knowing that my high school friend is celebrating that her twin daughters passed their drivers’ tests or that my cousin is enjoying a rare sunny day in Seattle or that my siblings are delighting in their grandchildren’s latest silly videos. Whenever I read these seemingly superficial updates, I can feel a tendril of myself reach out to them and send them love. I mean that sincerely. I think we all do it. We just may not call it that, but when a loving, silly, compassionate, commiserating feeling courses through our bodies even for one split second as a result of thinking about or seeing someone else, Boom! They feel it. We’re connected.

We might find ourselves thinking of the various people in our lives off and on anyway, but social media definitely magnifies the awareness into day to day goings on so we have the ability to connect on a much grander platform, shooting our love every which way. We even find ourselves doing it to and with people we really don’t know well, or at all, proving that we’re inherently connected to this whole dang planet of folks. It’s awesome.

I also love being with people in a live-and-in-person sort of way. It offers another means of connecting filled with looking people in the eye, reading their body language, hearing their voice, responding in real time, and giving real hugs. 

Neither type of connecting is better than the other in my humble opinion. What is important is balance between the two. That balance is different for each of us and it’s up to us to sort out what amount of each feels right. What doesn’t seem to work is doing both of them at once.

Now, I don’t plan to get on any soap boxes or chastise anyone who does this. I get it and you’ve already heard it. Jerry Seinfeld joked once that setting your phone in the middle of the table during a lunch date is like saying that anyone else who calls right now is more important than the person you’re with. Who needs me when you have comedians who unabashedly point out the truth, right? 

For me however, it runs deeper than rudeness. My observation and experience is that mixing the connecting of social-media with live-and-in-person connecting lessens the value of each entity, that is, we miss out on the inherent purpose and beauty in each form of connecting. When we ignore the strengths of each, we magnify the weaknesses. When we mix these two, we become disjointed and unable to really maximize our energies as they need to be in each moment – directly offering our love and support to the person in front of us when they’re in front of us, and remotely offering our love and support to the slew of people in our lives when they’re remote.

Give it a try. For just one day, do only one kind of connecting at a time. When you’re in a meeting, be in the meeting and look your coworkers in the eye rather than down at your phone. When you’re cooking dinner with your significant other, cook dinner and chat in person without answering those text alerts. When you’re scrolling through your Facebook timeline, sit down with a cup of tea for an afternoon break and scroll through your timeline, liking and replying to each person that moves you.

Feel your focus on each connecting entity and how it’s different from the next. Feel how your heart opens when you really listen to what is said or read what was written. Feel how your mind stays true to the moment’s needs. Feel the lack of distraction in the absence of multitasking. Feel. Yourself. Connecting.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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